Better managers recognize that the art of management is something they need to learn. No one becomes a fully competent manager overnight. There are, of course, many ways of learning how to be an effective manager.
There is no doubt that experience is the best teacher – the time you have spent as a manager or team leader and your analysis of how good managers you come across operate. You can learn from your own boss and from other bosses.
This means accepting what you recognize as effective behaviour and rejecting what is inappropriate – that is, behaviour that fails to provide the leadership and motivation required from good managers and that does not deliver results.
Coordinating – ‘achieving unity of effort’ – covers all actions taken by managers leading to the achievement of a result by a number of different parties. It is not a separate function of a manager and the concept of coordination does not describe a particular set of operations.
Coordination is required because individual actions need to be integrated. Some activities must follow one another in sequence. Others must go on at the same time and in the same direction in order to finish together.
Approaches to coordination
Obviously, you can achieve good coordination by getting people to work well together.
This means integrating their activities, communicating well, exercising leadership and team building (all subjects covered in individual chapters). But you should also pay attention to the specific techniques discussed below.
Coordinating should take place before the event rather than after it. planning is the first step. This means deciding what should be done and when. It is a process of dividing the total task into a number of sequenced or related sub-tasks. Then you work out priorities and timescales.
You know what should be done. You then decide who does it.
When you divide work between people you should avoid breaking apart those tasks that are linked together and that you cannot separate cleanly from each other.
Your biggest problem will be deciding where the boundaries between distinct but related activities should be. If the boundary is either too rigid or insufficiently well defined, you may have coordination problems. Don’t rely too much upon the formal organization as defined in job descriptions, charts and manuals.
If you do, you will induce inflexibility and set up communication barriers, and these are fatal to coordination.
The informal organization that exists in all companies can help coordination. When people work together they develop a system of social relationships that cut across formal organizational boundaries.
They create a network of informal groups that tend to discipline themselves. This frees management from detailed supervision and control and leaves it more time for planning, problem-solving and the overall monitoring of performance.
The informal organization can help, but you still need to delegate work to individuals in a way that ensures they know what is expected of them and are aware of the need to liaise with others to achieve a coordinated result.
The art is to make everyone concerned understand the points on which they must link up with other people and the time in which such actions have to be completed.
You should not have to tell people to coordinate; they should do so almost automatically. This they will do if you delegate not only specific tasks but also the job of working with others.
You should not only communicate clearly what you want done, you should also encourage people to communicate with one another.
Avoid situations in which people can say: ‘Why didn’t someone tell me about this? If they had, I could have told them how to get out of the difficulty.’
Nobody should be allowed to resort to the old excuse that ‘no one tells me anything’. It is up to people to find out what they need to know and not wait to be told.
If you use the processes described above, and they work, theoretically you will not have to worry any more about coordination. But, of course, life is not like that. You must monitor actions and results, spot problems and take swift corrective action when necessary.
Coordination doesn’t just happen. It has to be worked at – but avoid getting too involved. Allow people as much freedom as possible to develop horizontal relationships. These can facilitate coordination far more effectively than rigid and authoritarian control.
The likelihood of success for each project within your business can be significantly increased by you taking the time to align your team with good co-ordination.
Making things happen, getting things done, achieving results – this is what management is all about; however, no one manager can do everything, and it takes a confident individual to realise that.
To find out more about this topic, please take a look at the new book How to be an Even Better Manager by Michael Armstrong. Now in its 10th edition, this best-selling practical handbook for managers covers 67 essential topics to help you build your management skills and tackle your business challenges. This article includes extracts from How to be an Even Better Manager by Michael Armstrong ©2017 and has been reproduced with permission from Kogan Page Ltd.